From Shetland to Everest – 70 years on

To mark the 70th anniversary of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary’s expedition to the summit of Mount Everest a new display in the Shetland Museum and Archives highlights the valuable contribution that Shetland knitwear played to this successful British achievement.

The display, ‘On Top of the World’ includes a copy of one of the original ‘pullovers’ worn by Hillary and Norgay on 29 May 1953. Made in Shetland by T.M. Adie and Sons, every member of the expedition was given two of the jumpers. Worn as undershirts they were made from super fine wool and were extremely lightweight, making them warm but weightless.

The ‘Everest’ crew-neck jumpers were later marketed by T.M. Adie’s and Sons as the jumper for the ‘man of the 50s’. After the Adie’s company closed in 1989, Anderson and Co. of Lerwick were given the rights to produce the classic design and the legacy has lived on ever since.

Curator Dr Carol Christiansen explains: “This style of jumper was not new; it had been in use at least 50 years before the expedition and we have examples of hand-knitted, hand-spun woollen undershirts worn by Shetland fishermen in our collection. Vents under the arms eased the strain during rowing and short sleeves made it easier to bait lines. One of these early pieces is included in the display.

“We were keen to mark the anniversary and share Shetland’s connection to this historic achievement. As well as examples of the Everest jumper the display includes a typed letter from Edmund Hillary’s wife who, before travelling to Nepal in 1964 writes to Adie’s to acknowledge receipt of one of the jumpers for her husband, suggesting that Hillary continued to wear the Everest style of jumper long after the historic expedition.”

The display can be found in the upper galleries of the Shetland Museum and will be on show until next summer.

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